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Local teens testing Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine; early results met with excitement

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Posted at 5:24 PM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 18:28:08-04

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Early results showing Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine was 100% effective in preventing infection in 12 to 15-year-olds were met with excitement across Northeast Ohio Wednesday, where 173 patients took part in the study.

The vaccine maker also found study participants reported similar side effects to those seen in older teens and young adults.

"Just wow!" said Abby Burkle, a 13-year-old from Cleveland Heights who took part in the trial. "It's powerful that it's actually working. We might be able to get out of this sooner rather than later."

It's an excitement shared by Dr. Shelly Senders. The South Euclid pediatrician was one of about 20 doctors nationwide chosen for the study.

"My first reaction (to the results) was wow!" said Senders, "because we enrolled 173 of the 2200 (participants), so Clevelanders have had an out-sized representation in this study."

Currently, only people 16 years and older are approved for the vaccine.

Senders believes the early results will probably lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to grant emergency use authorization for Pfizer's vaccine to be used on younger teens and pre-teens.

He said could put the country one step closer to herd immunity and a return to pre-pandemic life.

"There's still enough spread amongst teenagers who go in packs and who are very sociable, that if we can vaccinate those groups, then we can get our high schools back according to all positions," said Senders.

Burkle, a seventh grader, admits to some early hesitation.

"A little bit, because I'm scared of needles," said Burkle.

But she and her father believed the early results send a clear message.

"I don't want to be controversial here, but vaccines work," said Aaron Burkle. "All we have to do is look at the course of American history. Vaccines work and it's our only way out of this."

Burkle said she still doesn't know if she received the vaccine or a placebo, but encourages others her age to get vaccinated if it is made available.

"Totally get it," said Burkle. "It's so much more likely you won't get sick, your family won't get sick. You can be around your family and friends more and just totally get it. There's no worry, just get it."

Participants in the study will be monitored for two years looking for long-term effects and to see how long immunity lasts according to Senders.

The doctor said his practice is also preparing to take part in three more rounds of vaccine trials on younger children in the coming months.